IPL 2023: Season 16, Episode 1

Another season of the world’s richest franchise-based cricket league kicks off with holders Gujarat facing perennial winners Chennai
Nine of the 10 captains (Rohit Sharma missed the ceremony) with the trophy they’ll be fighting for ahead of the latest season of the IPL, in Ahmedabad on Thursday | IPL
Nine of the 10 captains (Rohit Sharma missed the ceremony) with the trophy they’ll be fighting for ahead of the latest season of the IPL, in Ahmedabad on Thursday | IPL

CHENNAI:  When a 21-year-old Hardik Pandya changed the fate of the game in a matter of six balls at Chennai in 2015, announcing his arrival at the Indian Premier League in the process, T20 seemed like a different sport. In the eight years since, a lot has changed not just for the two individuals, but the league and the format itself (in some ways, it’s become more different to what it was in 2015).

The rugged big-hitting talent has grown into the next India captain in line while the then national skipper is inarguably in the December of his IPL career, potentially playing in the tournament for one last time. On Friday, the duo will be up against each other once again with the Pandya-led Gujarat Titans set to take on CSK in the opening game of the 2023 IPL at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.

From the outset, it is hard not to look at the duel between two captains, especially with one having been mentored by the other for the better part of his career. However, there is more to it. From where they are in their careers personally to where these two teams are in the scheme apropos this league, it represents a battle between the tried and tested and the newly-anointed champions. A four-time winner up against a team that won the title on its debut and is just playing the second year in the league.

There isn’t a thing that Dhoni and his team hasn’t seen in the last 15 years. On the other hand, the Titans haven’t tasted anything but success. CSK relies on experience and proven ability of the individuals to win matches under pressure while Titans put individuals in different positions, including youngsters like Shubman Gill and Sai Sudharsan and they have responded. However, they are yet to see a pitfall having had a season where everything they touched turned gold. It will be interesting to see how they respond if things do not go their way from the start, especially for Pandya who is Rohit Sharma’s deputy for India in white-ball cricket. 

The all-rounder had a whirlwind of a year in 2022 where from not knowing if he will be able to play or bowl. From there, Pandya led Titans to glory with impeccable success and some smart captaincy decisions. Not to mention the leadership qualities that came to the fore when thrusted with responsibility. As athletes often say, it is not about doing it once in the first year, but about developing the habit of delivering consistently as someone like Dhoni has for CSK; nine finals and eleven playoffs in 13 years is testament to it. Something Pandya, too, would want to emulate with the Titans.

That said, it should not come as a surprise should Dhoni not take the field on Friday. It seems the CSK skipper is carrying a niggle and did not bat in the nets on Friday. While the final call is reportedly expected to be taken on the day of the match, the team management might not want to risk playing the opening game only to miss his return to Chennai against Lucknow Super Giants on Monday.

Amidst all the internal contests and battles, there are more new things to look forward this season — Impact Player, DRS for wide/no ball, the playing XI after toss and so on. While one has to wait and see how teams adapt, one constant thing remains. Titans, for the first time, will be playing in a league game at the their home ground with the home and away format returning this season. A lot of new things and a tinge of familiarity coming together for another long season, a 74-match 52-day tournament, kicks off on Friday.  

Related Stories

No stories found.

The New Indian Express